The concept of community mediation has grown rapidly over the course of the past three decades in response to concerns over violence in our society and frustration with our overburdened and expensive judicial system. Hundreds of community mediation centers now operate throughout the United States, and are widely recognized as vital components of justice in most states. The Community Mediation Center of Rhode Island (CMCRI), founded in 1996, is Rhode Island’s only such center. The idea of the Center was conceived among a group of visionary founders who wanted to increase the use of peaceful conflict resolution techniques across the state, and who, for several years, operated the Center as an entirely volunteer Board-run organization.
In April of 1999, at the request of Judge Indeglia, CMCRI began a pilot mediation program in Newport County Small Claims Court. From its inception the program was very successful. In the first 9 months of 1999, CMCRI volunteers logged in over 100 hours and mediated 69 cases, with a resolution rate of 59%. In 2000, at the request of the late Judge DeRobbio, the program expanded to Providence County Small Claims Court. In 2002 the program expanded further to Kent and Washington County Small Claims Courts, and then to Providence’s Housing Court. In 2009, CMCRI staff and volunteers mediated 488 cases in the Small Claims and Housing Courts, with a resolution rate of nearly 75%. The Center continues to operate its Small Claims Court Mediation Program, now in its tenth year, under a generous grant from the Rhode Island Supreme Court.
In addition to the Center’s court work, CMCRI provides affordable mediation and dispute resolution services to community residents and organizations. In 2009 CMCRI staff and volunteer mediators intervened in 158 community disputes, assisting with family and parent-teen conflicts, court-involved juveniles, neighbor-to-neighbor, organizational and workplace disputes, agricultural conflicts, landlord-tenant, and human rights cases. That same year, CMCRI mediators provided facilitation services to 16 non-profit organizations looking for assistance with group conflicts, group decision-making, and group communication issues.
The Center additionally provides mediation and conflict resolution training to adults and children in the community and in the schools. In 2009 CMCRI offered 21 mediation and conflict resolution training sessions to over 303 children and adults, representing a large spectrum of races, ethnicities and experiences.
CMCRI is a proud member of the Fund for Community Progress, a coalition of Rhode Island-based non-profit agencies with a focus on social justice and community change. Fund members have banded together to raise monies through workplace giving. You can help strengthen these agencies by giving through your workplace, or by contributing directly to the Fund (fundcp.org, or 941-7100).